Baseball great Buck / THU 6-30-16 / 1956 jazz/blues album with exclamation point / Heavy drinkers informally / Caligula's love / Tout's stock in trade

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Constructor: Jonathan M. Kaye

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TOP / OFF (38A: With 39-Across, refill to capacity ... or a hint to interpreting the clues at 17-, 27-, 46- and 61-Across) — if you literally take the top off of each letter in the theme clues (i.e. block out / discard the upper half of the clue), you get a new clue appropriate to the answer:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: B0B (i.e. DUD) -> DEFECTIVE BULLET
  •  27A: TB8L (i.e. IDOL) -> ADORED SUPERSTAR
  • 46A: 8V8TB (i.e. OVOID) -> SHAPED LIKE AN EGG
[If you still don't get it, try this: A. draw a horizontal line straight through the clue; B. erase / block everything above the line; C. the remaining letter parts (everything beneath the line) is the clue]

Word of the Day: ERIKA Christensen (20A: Christensen of "Parenthood") —
Erika Jane Christensen (born August 19, 1982) is an American actress and singer whose filmography includes roles in Traffic (2000), Swimfan (2002), The Banger Sisters (2002), The Perfect Score (2004), Flightplan (2005), How to Rob a Bank (2007), and The Tortured (2010). For her performance in Traffic, she won the MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Female Performance and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture along with her co-stars. // In 2006, she starred on the short-lived drama series Six Degrees on ABC. From 2010 until its ending in 2015, Christensen starred as Julia Braverman-Graham on the NBC family drama series Parenthood. In 2014, she won a Gracie Award for her performance in the role. Christensen portrayed Betty Beaumontaine on ABC's short-lived crime drama series Wicked City. (wikipedia)
• • •
I've seen variations on this theme before. Well, at least one, so maybe not variations, plural, but I've definitely seen the divide-a-letter gimmick before. I'm guessing many will finish and not really understand what is going on. It took me a little bit to put it all together, especially considering I had DEFECTIVE BULLET well before the revealer and couldn't make any sense of it. When in doubt, get Very Literal ... so I did, and voila. I am not a big fan of definitions-as-answers, and these answers have been particularly ... let's say, massaged (since it's a nice word) ... to get them into 15 form. So not only do I get definitions as answers, I get some pretty iffy ones at that. I would never get to DEFECTIVE BULLET from "Dud" unless absolutely forced to. The ADORED in ADORED SUPERSTAR is at least semi-redundant. SHAPED LIKE AN EGG ... well, that one's so ridiculous it makes me laugh, so I actually kind of like it. BRIGHTLY COLORED seems just right. Fill is smooth—it's a 78-worder, so it oughta be. The APER / REFI / EPEE / ERIKA is the only densely yucky part of the grid. SILLY ME and PRE-NUP give the grid a little colloquial zazz. This is not a type of puzzle I particularly enjoy, but it's reasonably well done for what it is.

Difficulty lay (aside from the obvious theme-figuring-out stuff) in a few misdirective / ambiguous clues. I was so proud of myself for dropping EMU and LARGEST, bam bam. And then the "A" in LARGEST worked for MAUVE so I knew I'd nailed it. Until I couldn't finish the corner. The hole I dug wasn't too deep, but it was ... interesting. Most notably, I convinced myself that "old-time cookie recipes" contained an ingredient called GERM (as in "wheat germ," duh). Other mistakes weren't nearly as costly. I knew "Tout" related to gambling, but for some reason I decided his stock-in-trade was ODDS (?). ID NO. was really hard for 24D: Prisoner's assignment, Abbr. And then the highly ambiguous 45D: Pen made getting into the SE a little tricky. If this were my puzzle, I'd probably have changed SORE (66A) to SAND, thereby getting rid of the always-terrible ADES and picking up the Flock of Seagulls song "I RAN" at 58D. But SORE works too. Different strokes etc.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Daryl 12:03 AM  

Ugh, I got my TOP OFF quickly (ha!) and figured it was a something like that but still couldn't visualize the clues. Ended up solving the whole thing using Downs and coming here to figure the theme out.

jae 12:06 AM  

Easy-medium for me. I finished this relatively quickly without grokking the theme. So, I'm assuming the tough part is figuring out what is going on so you don't take a @lms DNF (Hi Loren). It took a bit of staring and some pencil defacing of clues, but I got it.

Clever and tricky, liked it, excellent debut!

George Barany 12:18 AM  

Debut puzzle for @Jonathan Kaye, so congratulations for that. Fun to read @Rex's account, because discounting for his greatly improved skill and speed level, his experiences matched mine. I wasn't really paying attention during the entire Harry Potter phenomena, so SEEKERS crossing ERIKA stumped me, and there were some additional downstream problems (CAME and ID_NO as clued; and wouldn't COP work with "Fuzz"?). Still had to come here to fully understand how the theme answers all worked.

Pleased to see today's traditional SAL clue, much better than the one used a week ago. I also approve of the BELA/ABEL anagram connection. IRON could have used a chemistry clue, though.

Trombone Tom 12:46 AM  

An interesting and unusual twist on a Thursday. I didn't work on the theme until I was done and even then it took a while. The TOP OFF had to be done with some precision. I struggled to see how ovate would work until I twigged on ovoid.

Hand up for oddS before TIPS. Interesting that we had to bring back some old names and things (SAL, BELA, and LARD) to solve this SASSY puzzle.

Pretty much agree with @Rex, but thought this was more toward easy for a Thursday.

chefwen 12:56 AM  

Well, I got it done. All my little squares filled in and filled in correctly, but I had no idea how or why on 17, 27, 48 or 61A. TOP OFF didn't help me at all. I had never seen this little trick before, I'll remember it now. Gotta go with medium on the puzzle, challanging on the theme.
May I please have a nice little rebus next week?

Marty Van B 12:59 AM  

Medium feels like the right difficulty for today's puzzle. My first go through didn't net much traction. When I come back, I managed some solid beachheads that were enough to turn the corner on the the theme and fill in the rest of the grid without frustration.

I would also agree that there is a sense of the theme answers being overly arbitrary, more like a Wheel of Fortune "new baby buggy" answer than solid fill.

Anonymous 1:20 AM  

I grow so weary of Gimmick Thursday. The through-the-week progressive difficulty in cluing is about right, but these F**king Diversions make me crazy.

I had all but 17A from the crosses with no idea what was going on, so the NE was impossible for me to finish. Thin air = ether?

Maybe I should just skip Thursdays for my mental health.

puzzle hoarder 1:21 AM  

If you can't stand to hear a grown man gush stop reading now because I really liked this puzzle. If there have been other examples of this theme in the NYTP I've either missed them or my ability to forget is improving because this seemed very novel to me. I did the whole puzzle before I got the theme. BOB and DUD having the same number of letters clued me in. At first I had to use a pencil to cover the top half to see it but it's when you just use your eyes that it gets fun. The word just splits in half vertically as if there were a tiny prism in the center of your vision.
As for the "massaged" nature of the themers sure they're somewhat manufactured (other than 61A) but that makes them a little harder to figure out. When you add in the cryptic clues it gives the puzzle it's only real difficulty. Those four themers were the only debuts entries the rest was pretty basic.
This is about the only time I've had a theme brighten up an otherwise routine solve.

GILL I. 1:22 AM  

I really have no idea how I feel about this puzzle. Good gravy, how in the hell did you even see that we had to divide the friggin clues? I swear I stared at them for at least a drink and a half. Not a thing came to mind. I had TOP OFF, but even that did nothing for me. I kept thinking there is something nude going on here. You know @Rex, If I weren't able to come here to see what the reveal was all about, I would have just gone on drinking and wondering why one having a small bite was a FLEA.
Now that I have found my way, gadzooks, what a concept. Maybe you've done this type of theme before, but this is my maiden voyage. I'm seriously impressed....really! Wasn't thrilled with some of the clues/ CARS who might get in a jam or heavy drinkers being SPONGES or why the ingredient in old-time cookies wasn't CURD. But that's just my ignorance along with thinking Caligula's love was AGRI - you know, short for Agrippina...!
I hated this as I was doing it but now I'm reformed. Pretty damn cool Jonathan Kaye. I TOP OFF my sombrero to you.

Larry Gilstrap 2:58 AM  

So I decide to leave syndi land and join the conversation and I am confronted with this? Vivid just jumps out of VMB? I went to a luau and the girls wore grass skirts, and the guys were grass hoppers. Thank you for not having Lay LOW.

Ellen S 3:30 AM  

THANK YOU, @Rex. I finished the whole puzzle with relative ease, but would never have figured out the theme had you not explained it.

Alby 4:22 AM  

Got stuck on 24D/35A for awhile, thinking them IDcO/coP, respectively. My reasoning was that prisoners are "assigned" to work at the IDcO making license plates, and "fuzz" is slang for coP. Finally realized I had subconsciously avoided reading "fuzz" as NAP so as to avoid Don Imus' fate.

Loren Muse Smith 4:30 AM  

Somehow the trick of manipulating the shapes of characters is on my radar screen, but I don't remember solving one. Namely, MOM upside down is WOW, and I know this from reading about crosswords. Man. Not only do I solve them and talk about them ad nauseam here, but I read about them, and, the funniest, I wait at the door to the ballroom Sunday morning at the ACPT so I can get a really good seat to sit and watch people solve them on stage. I love this place full of people who Get It, who love crossworld as much as I do.

Anyway, I had a devil of a time for a while until - boom, I saw it. What a terrific aha moment. Even then, I had to write out the clues really big and draw a line through them to spell the word. And that was fun.

Rex – Yes, definitely, "Difficulty lay (aside from the obvious theme-figuring-out stuff) in a few misdirective / ambiguous clues." But my tough areas were the messes I got in from putting in

"cop" 35A for the fuzz
"hero" 5A for the sub (crossing "rises up" 7D)
"test" 47D for the student's woe
"short" 25A for the electrical anomaly

And I agree the "pen" clue for 45D was soooo ambiguous. I was going with "compose," but at least I didn't write that one in.

My ingredient in old time cookie recipes was "suet" (seriously) and then later "Karo." Mercifully, I didn't write those gems in, either. I love me some warm gooey suet snickerdoodles. Right.

I sure hope @M&A sees this today, wherever he is. He thinks this way and has played around with a kind of this concept in his Runt Puzzledom.

Speaking of vacations – happy travels, @Lewis!

So, Mr. Kaye – bravo for this one. I enjoyed the fight. Nary a B0LL moment.

dislocation 5:40 AM  

Count me among those who finished and had no idea what the theme was.

Glimmerglass 6:46 AM  

More than half of us, I suspect, will (like me) find the "revealer" no help at all. So the fun in this theme is workng backwards to understand what the fleep is going on. The gimmick is clever, but I solved every one of the "theme" answers entirely from crosses, needing 11 or 12 of the 15 letters to get a phrase that made any sense.

Zwhatever 7:01 AM  

Two days in a row where the trick is in the clues, not the grid. Not my cuppa, but fine examples of stretching our thinking about where the puzzle lies. In my print-out the theme clues look like vanity license plates, which had me wondering until well after the solve what was going on. I tried the TOP OFF trick and didn't see the new clues. So that makes it two TDNFs in a row.

I do not think the ADORED is redundant at all. For every Steph Curry you have a LeBron (hell, even the cities for whom he won championships have gone through semi-lengthy periods of hating him). You have SUPERSTARs like Miggy who should be ADORED but for whom the language barrier results in him being underappreciated outside Detroit. And what about someone like Barry Bonds? A truly remarkable baseball player who is tainted by (unproven) performance enhancer use.

@Mohair Sam yesterday - I caught about 15 minutes of some 70's feature starring Clint Eastwood. He rapes a woman because, you know, she wanted it. Afterward she was appreciative of being raped. Truly amazing what was considered "heroic" not that long ago. I read that he has done some credible work, but I find the majority of his work distasteful, anti-social, and more than a little Un-American (or maybe too authentically American instead of reflecting the ideals we aspire to). Why would I watch such crap?

three of clubs 7:16 AM  

Understood how TOP OFF might work but I still don't see how B turns into a d.

Ted Cole 7:27 AM  

I'm with "dislocation"

Hungry Mother 7:40 AM  

Got it without understanding the theme. Very nice puzzle, mostly word play without too many names.

Unknown 7:43 AM  

I work in Royal Oak, so that was my treat for the day.

Dorothy Biggs 7:54 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith: I had 3 of the same 4 write overs you had: cop, hero, and short.

I guess I liked this. I didn't groan except just once: DEFECTIVEBULLET. Can bullets be duds? They're projectiles that fly through the air and hit things...what part of that can be a dud? Bombs, yes. B'way shows, yes. Puns, yes. Bullets, I don't think so. A gun can jam and so there is no bullet, but it isn't the bullet's fault. I guess the bullet has some gun powder in it and that can make it a dud? But will all the shootings and talk of guns these days, I have never heard of a dud bullet. Seems like a theoretical situation more than an actual thing.

Also, for the longest time I had DEFECTIVEBUiLET...because I thought EMUs were one of the "tailess" birds in the world. I figured they can't fly...maybe it's because they have no tails? The clue for 36A was no help either...since I don't think I've ever heard the phrase, "Thereby hangs a tale." Things might thereby hang in a balance...but that doesn't fit.

I finished the puzzle and suspected some kind of chicanery with those letters...mostly I suspected something like a vanity plate where the letters/numbers are words. But the TOP OFF part actually helped me get the solution. I'll give the puzzle credit for thinking that up. That was a nice Thursday-like theme. Interesting and quirky.

TARDE is not in my Spanish vocabulary that I know. So that mid-Atlantic area was the most challenging for me.

chefbea 7:54 AM  

Once I got the revealer I knew the theme...but couldn't figure out vivid. Had a hard time parsing IDNO...but then Rex explained. Tough puzzle

QuasiMojo 8:07 AM  

That "vivid" clue really is pushing the limits of credulity. It just doesn't hold water visually. Count me among those who finished this but found it a tortured and time-wasting conceit. Much too-cleaver-by-half.

jberg 8:20 AM  

I finished the grid, stared at it for a couple of minutes, went off and solved the two kenken puzzles to the right, then came back and finally managed to see that TOP referred to ... the top, rather than the front of a word. Wow! Even then it took me another minute to see how the 3-letter VMB could be the 5-letter VIVID. (It doesn't work in this font, but does in the puzzle.)

I once read the first Harry Potter novel. I wasn't moved to read any more, and didn't really remember too much about Quidditch, but enough came back to see that there was a K in the otherwise-stumping ERIKA.

My biggest problem, though (except for the theme) was vaguely thinking MAUVE was a darker, not a lighter shade of violet. I think I'll go to the Pantone website to bone up on these things.

kitshef 8:31 AM  

What fun! And overlooked due to the splendid theme is the tricky cluing and high quality fill.

Easy on both sides, challenging in the middle, where hand up for hEro before TEMP. Also had 'DEFECT In a BULLET', and immediately filled in ewing instead of ONEIL for my baseball great.

Had three of the four themers filled in (the bullet one incorrectly) before I finally got it at VIVID. Like Trombone Tom, I had been trying to see how 'ovate' would work for 8V8TB. And for B0B, I was thinking the '0' somehow meant a defect, in the BB which is a kind of bullet.

Charles Flaster 8:38 AM  

Really enjoyed this medium puzzle and like many others , completed it without the theme.
After TOP OFF I was looking for "tops" being removed from words or phrases.
Examples I tried were " head", "hair", "roof", and "bra"-- but to no avail. After Rex explained the beginning of the theme, I loved it and especially " VIVID".
I liked the cluing for TAT, ENCLOSE, and MARSH.
My write overs were tough to give up --TEMP for hEro, ETHER for vapoR, ONS for
iNS, and SURGE for inaGE (?).
Did not like the clue for ZERO on many levels. Here's one for future reference--"Whole but not natural".
Thanks for a wonderful debut JMK.

crabsofsteel 8:47 AM  

Agree with @dislocation. Clueing was too obscure for my tastes, and even after getting TOP OFF could not figure out the gimmick.

Brett Hendrickson 8:54 AM  

I liked the themer but just about DNF on IDNO. Finally got it after guessing on EMI.

Unknown 9:13 AM  

Loren Muse Smith said...
"Somehow the trick of manipulating the shapes of characters is on my radar screen, but I don't remember solving one."

How about famous crossword fan, Lisa Simpson's frustration with the reflected numbers puzzle?

Mohair Sam 9:14 AM  

Came here to learn the theme (thanks Rex) and discovered we'd dnf'd. Did the @LMS thing with COP for NAP, don't know our record companies (nor Sex Pistols tunes) so EMS made sense, and were comfy thinking SDCO was slang for a prisoner's Solitary Confinement.

I'm sure more than a few carpet manufacturers are harrumphing in that Will Shortz has reduced their NAP to mere fuzz. Rex is right, the fill was really nice today. BRIGHTLYCOLORED was our first themer and we'd gotten TOP OFF - so I drew a line threw VMB, said "Nah, the "M" makes no sense" - and moved on. Sigh.

@Nancy - Forgot to mention the other day that I'd looked up your beloved AT&T 100. It's a beauty for sure. My sister-in-law June has you beat however - she still rents a rotary dial phone. You brag that your AT&T 100 lacks features, but Amazon says it comes with "Flash, redial, and mute" - June's rotary phone has none of this madness. Last time I visited her I asked why she doesn't update to touch tone - she replied that rotary dial is making a comeback, said the telephone repairman agreed (I would have loved to have heard that conversation).

Unknown 9:18 AM  

Dnf. Didn't get the theme either (until comjng here).

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

It's a fail! One can finish the puzzle and not care what the theme was. Who cares?--and there is nothing interesting in the clueing or the answers.

Job of the Land of Uz 9:43 AM  

One giant woe. Left me wishing that I never even started the damnable puzzle.

Sir Hillary 9:53 AM  

I really enjoyed this. My initial reaction was "vanity plate slogans" but I figured out the trick pretty quickly. Even then, I had to work hard to back-solve for the 15s. Also, I found the cluing pretty crunchy for a Thursday, which I like. Only entry I wrinkled my nose at was BEDEW -- please, bedon't.

I had a similar thought as many at 35A, but I already had the middle letter so dropped in lAw.

Maybe I didn't read closely enough, but doesn't @Rex's suggestion for the SE corner result in ZENO at 59D? Unless this is an SRO gag, and I'm a SAP...

Hartley70 10:01 AM  

I solved this but gave up trying to understand the theme. Wow! I never would have considered mutilating the clues. This takes Thursday cluing to a whole new level for me. Congrats Mr. Kaye. You got me!

Lobster11 10:03 AM  

Count me in with the those who finished the puzzle without any clue regarding the theme. After staring blankly at the finished grid for some time I nearly gave up, but decided to put it aside for awhile. When I came back to it I saw it right away. So, it was nearly a "@lms DNF" (is that a thing now, @jae?), but I pulled it out in the end.

Ordinarily I gripe about "post-hoc" themes, but in this case I won't. It's true that I didn't see the theme until I was done, and so it didn't contribute to my solving experience, but I have to admit that I could have seen it sooner -- and if I had, it would have greatly affected the solve. The post-hocness (post-hocity? post-hociousness?) was in the eye of the beholder, not in the puzzle, so my bad.

Theme aside, it solved nicely as a themeless: Just the right level of difficulty for me, for a Thursday, with lots of clever cluing and misdirection.

Wm. C. 10:24 AM  

Me too, finished the puzzle with no idea how the theme worked 'til I came here.

Judging from the overall weight of the above comments, I'd bet that only a small minority of solvers got it. And of those few that did, I'd bet that most got it a postiori, not in advance.

The way this kind of thing SHOULD (sorry for shouting) work is as follows: get the 38/39 theme hint, look at the four graphic clues, take the top off each to reveal the real clue, then translate it to the correct fill.

Again, hands up from anyone who did it this way? As Ben Stein would say: "Anyone? ... Anyone???" If you've got your hand up, ...well... Congrats to you.

All this said, the puzzle was enjoyable, with several cute clues, as noted above. I'm just sorry that it ended with my frustration of not being able to suss out the theme, even a positiori. If I'd been able to do so, the exercise would have ended with a head-slapping grin. (My guess is that this was the sequence realistically intended by the constructor.). But no ...

END RANT. (Sorry...)

Nancy 10:28 AM  

Not a CLUE as to WTF was going on here!!! But, if I had only seen CARS at 1A, I would have finished anyway. Not coming up with CARS; having MUNI instead of REFI at 3D; not having ever heard of ERIKA and not knowing a thing about Quidditch -- I DNF the NW section. I finished the rest of it completely baffled by the theme answers: I could have stared at them until the cows came home and never figured it out.

My other two problems were 1)having RISES UP before MOVES UP at 7D, because I had HERO before TEMP at 5A. And 2)having HYPE before TIPS at 34A. This did not make this truly peculiar puzzle any easier -- believe me!

Once again, I see a pattern in the puzzles that tend to flummox me. They require the ability to visualize things in a unique way. I do not visualize things in a unique way. In fact, it can be fairly argued that I barely visualize things at all. I am notoriously unobservant, as everyone who knows me will attest to.

Did I like this puzzle? Well, all I can say is that even after being told what I'm supposed to visualize, I still don't really "see" it.

Nancy 10:39 AM  

@GILL -- Lucky you for solving at night and thus being able to drink as you solve. Solving in the morning, as I do, means no opportunity to imbibe -- and boy did I need a drink this a.m., after seeing that I was supposed to cut the clues in half. But I abstained.

@Mohair -- The RCN tech was here yesterday, is coming back tomorrow to run a wire around my apt -- meaning that I PROBABLY WILL BE ABLE TO KEEP MY TWO AT&T 100 PHONES and keep them in the same locations they're in now! More tomorrow. Give your sister-in-law June a high-five for me. She's my kind of gal -- though even I would no longer have the patience to dial on a rotary, having used a touch tone phone for all these years.

old timer 10:43 AM  

I am very, very bad at visualizing things, so this puzzle was definitely not ADORED here. Not a SUPERSTAR. In fact I thought it was DEFECTIVE and not BRIGHT at all. COLOR me disgusted. Only now to I see that if you draw an exact line across the exact middle of TB8L and look only at the lower half, the B becames a small-caps D and you have IDOL.

That said when I got TOP and OFF I did see how 8V8RTB might the something like "ovate" if you took the tops off the letters and numbers. So, having LIKE AN EGG already, I wrote in SHAPED. Which gave me DINAH! and left just the NW and SE corners to complete.

Now a BULLET is not likely to be defective, but most people think of the entire cartridge as a BULLET, and of course the powder can be defective, and therefore the shot is a DUD.

Yeah, I had a "cop" in there before NAP too.

Maxby 10:49 AM  

Wow, I think this is the first time my art school degree helped me on a crossword! Got the theme right away, but still wanted bomb, or something other than BULLET. Not to nitpick, but the bullet is just the piece of lead, the cartridge is the bullet and case with gunpowder. Hard to have a lump of lead be defective.

Fun nonetheless, thanks Mr. Kaye!

John V 10:50 AM  


JD 10:50 AM  
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Anonymous 11:05 AM  

@Z - Barry Bond's use of steroids was proven. What wasn't proven was that he knew about it, and even that largely depends on your definition of "proven".

Mike Rees 11:21 AM  

So, funny story, but I had to figure out the theme in order to get the revealer. I don't know if it's a Canadian thing, but I don't "TOP OFF" things here. Top UP, sure. So I had TOP and couldn't think of a three-letter word. Still had "bob" on the brain and thought the first themer might be "defensive mullet" (yeah, laugh. I sure did). But then I worked my brain around the TOP answer, and thought "What if I take the top off the clue" and it was dominoes from there.

I liked it. Good fun, despite a couple wild guesses (SEEKERS and half of the PPP answers - ONEIL, ERMA, ERIKA, etc.)

I'm not sure I understand how fuzz = NAP. Anyone?

Joseph Michael 11:21 AM  

Thought this was a brilliant puzzle. Congrats, Jonathan, on a great debut.

Mohair Sam 11:46 AM  

@Z - I get the feeling Eastwood's politics might be fingernails on your blackboard. Anyhow - The Eastwood flick is "Gran Torino" (2008), set in Detroit. About an older white guy in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Eastwood's relationship with a Hmong teenager, and the Hmong community is the heart of the story. Your description of how different you were from the people passing through your Detroit neighborhood the other night brought it to mind.

@Everyone - Yup, I used threw for through earlier. Sometimes I type phonetically.

@Nancy - I was actually thinking of recommending the AT&T 100 for June, but Amazon says it is not currently available and may never be available again. Be gentle with your phones!

Dan v. 11:57 AM  

Had DEFECTIVE MULLET all the way until the end. Thought it was a clever little pun on BOB and DUD. Just couldn't let it go, and I know nothing about guns so MORE sounded ok, I guess...oh well..dnf.

Frank 12:17 PM  

Easy puzzle stupid theme I never got it

Aketi 12:19 PM  

SHAPED LIKE AN EGG followed by BRIGHTLY COLORED reminded me of Easter egg hunts.

Like many others my DEFECTIVE brain did not get the concept of TOP OFF

Since a few puzzle constructors habe tried to insert some sort of feminist clues that fell flat, I figure I can't do any worse. The TOPS OFF clue reminded me that when I was a teen, part of the feminist revolt was to go braless. We may have tossed our bras but we still retained out TOPS. The newst generation of feminists have started a Free the Nipple campaign. They go one step further by going completely topless.

Aketi 12:22 PM  
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I Don't Get It 12:23 PM  

Rex's suggestion:

[If you still don't get it, try this: A. draw a horizontal line straight through the clue; B. erase / block everything above the line; C. the remaining letter parts (everything beneath the line) is the clue]

Now how don't you still get it?

AliasZ 12:24 PM  

And this, ladies and germs, is why I have a less than enthusiastic view of puzzles in which the trick lies in the clues, not the grid -- the second day in a row. If however the theme entries were somehow related, or the clues had a recognizable pattern rather than random license plate numbers, that would have made the theme more solver-friendly.

Joe Bleaux 12:41 PM  

It's circuitous, but here is my understanding: When the gun's firing pin strikes the base (cap) of the cartridge in the chamber, it causes a small explosion, which in turn ignites the gunpowder, creating the blast that expels the slug. If either cap or powder is defective, no blast results and the bullet is deemed a dud.

RooMonster 12:42 PM  

Hey All !
Started out quite difficult. Like Rex, had DEFECTIVE BULLET and revealer TOP OFF, but still couldn't make sense of theme. Printed out puz today, so had the paper turned to the right, upside down, to the left trying to see if the clues made any more sense! Thinking TOP was OFF (out of) the theme answers, but that wasn't right. Finally the ole brain nudged me, and said, "Take your pen, and split the clue in half (take the TOP OFF)." So I did, and Voila, I saw DUD, IDOL, OVOID, VIVID in lower case Capitals, if that makes sense... Then, puz became surprisingly easy. Ended up finishing with no errors and no writeovers. Amazing!

So I chalk this up to a neat puz that I was able to sniff out, theme and fill. Way to go Me!


Joe Bleaux 12:45 PM  

Nearly always, a three-letter "record label" clue is either EMI or RCA. (Just once, I'd like to see SUN -- if only to read the comments it would inspire.)

Anoa Bob 1:01 PM  

You don't just take the TOP OFF to change the clues, you have to cut everything off at the equator and then remove the entire top half. Even then it only works if you accept that numbers become letters (8-O), that some letters remain unchanged (V-V, L-L), and, especially, the version of the puzzle you are working with has an "M" where the middle v-part goes all the way down to the base line (as it does here). With the online puzzle, the one I pay money to subscribe to, the middle v-part of the "M" only goes half way down toward the base line, so it gets completely eliminated when the top half is decapitated, and all that remains are two, widely spaced vertical lines.

I don't think this puzz works for those who are not good visualizers nor for those who are very good visualizers. I considered myself in the second group and it didn't work for me. Too wiggly-jiggly, loosey-goosey.

I wonder if SAL Mineo ever took SAL Hepatica. How about "Dali, to friends" as a clue for SAL?

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Exactly. I figured out what I supposed to do. But it doesn't work properly. So I solved and came here to see what I missed. But, no answers here.

Chip Hilton 1:29 PM  

I predicted that Rex's first comment would be that this looked familiar. Bingo! Guess I've been doing these longer than I thought. I'm also figuring that the gimmick was buried somewhere deep in my brain and that enabled me to figure it out. It took a while, I got TOP OFF immediately and had large portions of the four trick answers filled in before the aha! moment occurred. I thought the fill and clues were top notch and even feel the four long answers were quite acceptable. So, for me, just what I look for in a Thursday puzzle. Thanks, J.M.K.!

Teedmn 1:33 PM  

Double DNF here today; first the mental @lms DNF (thanks @jae for the coinage) due to not grokking the theme, and the coP for NAP. I thought SoP was wrong but decided IDcO was some term used in the "stir" to designate what prison one was in. "Hey, you did some time in the big house? What was your IDcO?" Right!

I'm with @Nancy - maybe I have to start doing these in the evening over a glass of wine or two, a la @Gill I. Would it help? Undoubtedly not but I could put my failures down to inebriation at least.

And @Loren, you are right on this being totally up @M&A's Runt alley - if he weren't on hiatus for the nonce, I would be trembling with trepidation at what heights this would inspire him to.... and then I'd dive in for the solve.

Congratulations, Jonathan M Kaye, on the debut.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

Chop off the B and the bottom becomes a capital/ upper case D

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Hated it. Too cutesy/gimmicky. Much harder than medium for me, had to use Rex to finish.

BC 2:03 PM  

Very fun puzzle because I got the theme and gimmick right away. But I DNF for I was certain it was NONACTIVEBULLET and LOGS jam. I at first put SARAH! instead of DINAH! even though I have that lp.

Ethan Taliesin 2:08 PM  

I felt a bit like Lisa Simpson this morning...

Unknown 2:22 PM  

This was one of the rare time when I got the theme early and found it fun and very helpful in solving the puzzle. I was thinking an easier Thursday balances out the harder-than-average Tuesday this week.

Jennifer H 2:34 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one who fell into the MAUVE crossing EMU/lArgEST trap! To make it worse, I had tUtu instead of HULA.

I also got stuck in the NW for a while because I confidently plonked down CARS crossing CavE, then spent way too much time trying to come up with a 15-letter DUD that started with a V.

I enjoyed the theme, but that's partially because I caught on to it right away, then happily spent a few minutes figuring out the long crosses.

Carola 2:47 PM  

After failing to see yesterday's theme, I was feeling particularly tenacious about understanding this one. I worked the puzzle from top to bottom, and after getting to the reveal level, I stopped to consider how BOB led to a DEFECTIVE BULLET...[much mental grappling]....ah, TOP OFF = lop OFF the TOPS of the clues. That helped me get the other two themers quickly. I especially liked how VIVID worked. Nifty idea.

pmdm 2:51 PM  

To three of clubs: if you still don't get how you get the d letters, go to today's entry on where you will visually see how you get the letter d.

From reading other comments above, I happily see I am not the only one who finished the puzzle without understanding the theme. Given that this puzzle was originally submitted to Mr. Shortz on May 5, it's amazing how quickly it was cleaned up and published. Congratulations to the constructor.

msue 4:07 PM  

As part of the unwashed masses who finished the puzzle but didn't immediately understand the revealer, I didn't love love it. Still, a big hats off for the debut - something I've yet to experience. I had LILAC for 16A a little too long - so many errors in the crossing entries that I knew something had to change. All in all, not bad for a Thursday gimmick.

da kine 4:44 PM  

No anger at "SASSY" since it is a trope associated with WOC?

OISK 5:13 PM  

I figured out the theme only after getting three of the answers. Defective bullet was the last, tough because of a Harry Potter clue (STOP IT!!) and some actress I have never heard of named Erika. But only the letter "K" made any sense there, which I consider good construction. Have no idea what the "Sex Pistols" were, (just another in a long line of meaningless (to me) rock names) but like others, just wrote EMI anyway.

I think this was a well constructed, original, apt Thursday puzzle.

More Whit 5:18 PM  

Got through the whole puzzle completely baffled by the theme. Went to blog and in that instant translated shaped like an egg to ovoid after wondering why all CAPS were used. Clicked in a nanosecond after hours of...whiskey tango foxtrot. Theme was anything but vivid.

Nancy 6:17 PM  

@Mohair (11:46 a.m.)-- I treat my phones better than I would treat my kids, if I had any. No wonder you can't get them on Amazon -- I bought the last 6? 7? available in the U.S. about (I don't know) 8 years ago? Nor do I remember from whom I bought them or how I found that company, whatever company it was. I know that the phones had been "reconstituted" -- so that at one time, they obviously didn't work. Two have since died, so I'm down to...I don't know; I would have to go to my closet to count what's left. I offered the quite ridiculous price of $100 per phone (and, no, I'm not swimming in money), but the nice man I dealt with said: No, $25 per phone would be quite acceptable. A veritable bargain, I say. Let's see if I really have a "lifetime supply", which is what I was aiming for when my original AT&T 100s died after a long and happy life in my care. Whether I do or not depends on both the phones' longevity, as well as my own, of course.

Jon Alexander 7:08 PM  

As soon as I saw the first theme clue I knew something like this was afoot. I actually worked from the NW down to the middle so I got the revealer well before and of the the mets were filled. The revealer sealed it for me although parsing out the actual answers was a bit trickier (see Rex description above). Fun though, relatively easy for a Thu but still with enough bite to wreak a little havoc

Warren Howie Hughes 7:49 PM  

To all you SEEKERS of Wisdom and Truth, Jonathan Kaye CAME ALONG, he Saw, and did he EVER conquer! TOP OFF the Heap, A number ONE! We are greatly in his DEBT for this splendid debut in the NYT's! I absolutely ADORED it!

Sheryl 8:19 PM  

Add me to the list of people who finished the puzzle but still couldn't figure out the theme. Yeesh. I'll remember this trick for the future, though.

Michael 8:55 PM  

I really liked this one. Got three of the theme answers (all but defective bullet) before figuring out the gimmick and had defective b___ . Then I saw dud and got bullet. But even after I figured out what was going on, I still couldn't go from VMB to vivid. But now I see it

Andrew Heinegg 9:27 PM  

I did not get the theme until OFL told me it but, the problem is I just don't care. In order to make these sorts of things doable, you need to construct a puzzle with many easy and uninteresting clues as was done here. I filled in all the correct answers but nearly fell asleep doing so. Mr. Kaye is a talented constructor but you can't please all the people all the time. I couldn't quite figure whether Rex liked it or not. It was a dullard for me.

Dick Swart 10:05 PM  

Got the puzzle in the am over coffee and a chocolate croissant. Couldn't get the theme. Figured they were of the LOL/ Letters standing for words shortcuts that I am too far out of it to get,

Back tonight to find out. Quite visual!

Warren Howie Hughes 10:26 AM  

LOOKOUT World! This NewsFLASHers just in, that took their TOLL on me! Today, Friday MORN, James Mulhern, is the latest TATTLE of the town with this BOSS Xword offering! It left me in a complete STUPA, simply because, STUPA is as STUPA does! I say it LAUD and clear and no one can DOUBTIT because it ISO! The SKA is the Limit and nothing can be more TRU, I RECON I CANtBERRA it any longer that ONEMAN can hold this much SWAY...HO HO HO!

Sheryl 11:42 AM  

Rex, Warren Bowie Hughes posted a comment with spoilers for Friday's puzzle on the Thursday thread. Please delete (or move, if you can). If I'd seen this before doing Fridays puzzle, I'd be upset!

Tita 1:04 PM  

@NCAPres - love your TAiLESs birds reasoning!!
And agree that DEFECTIVEBULLET is a stretch.

Loved the idea!!! The first two answers were a bit dull, but the concept delighted me.
I do my best to avoid the revealer until I guess it on my own, or am desperate. Today it was the latter. I finally gave in, read the revealer, and got it lickety-split.
I was so positive that it was license plates that I was never going to figure it out on my own. This was bolstered by the -V8- portion of 8V8TB could kinda sound like the -vate- of -ovate- - really had me racking my noggin.

I love clever license plates, and secretly feel really bad when I can't figure them out in the wild. I can figure out "IXLR8". Any cleverer than that, and I probably won't grok it.

@Mohair, @Nancy... my husband grew up in cryptography and communications. He keeps a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) telephone so that he can connect it to the wall as a troubleshooting aid.
If that phone works, then we know the problem is with our new-fangled cordless phones. If it DOESN'T work, then he can confidently call our ISP and tell them yes, it IS your problem - you can't blame my equipment.
It also comes in handy for blackouts when your cordless or mobile phone battery dies.

THanks for a really clever Thursday, Mr. Kaye!

Blue Stater 3:06 PM  

A day late getting to this, should have saved my time. Plu.Perfectly.In.Sane. As is often the case on Thursdays, not a crossword puzzle at all.

Warren Howie Hughes 3:11 PM  

Sheryl, Believe me, it was completely inadvertent, as I certainly didn't mean to be a spoil sport for Friday's puzzle! Oh! and it's Warren "Howie" Hughes, thank you very much.

Burma Shave 11:37 AM  


ETHER ONE decides what EVER to doff,


Luker2453 11:57 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. Here in Chicago, we get the puzzle approximately on month after the original run in the NYT. It runs in the Chicago Sun Times.

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

After an hour and a half of brain triathlon, I actually got this. Even the TOP OFF part. "Wow," I was thinking, "If OFL rates it anything other than challenging I'm gonna be pissed." He rates it medium; I'm...yeah, for sure. I HATE it when he does that!

Not only the theme, but the clues to ordinary fill--right down to "Showed" (not "showed UP") for CAME. Thank goodness for ELIZA--in the person of DOD Audrey Hepburn, of COURSE!--or I might never have got in.

Naturally, the NW brought up the rear yet again; I almost quit. Racking my brain trying to think of a three-letter fruit for the 1-across jam; wrong again. Electrified sports equipment? Had me scratching the old noggin for quite a while before I realized that they do that in fencing so that people don't really get hurt. What the H-E-double hockey sticks is a DEFECTIVEBULLET? What, they didn't pour any gunpowder into that one?? Yikes, what an entry--and he calls this "medium." Grrrrr! However, that could only be a DUD, so at the last gasp I was forced into grokking the theme.

Triumph factor for this one starts us out at double-eagle, but that literal DUD at 17-across costs a stroke. Eagle.

rondo 12:19 PM  

Had no idea, even with TOP OFF as revealer. And a slowdown with the popular coP for NAP. When I was in the carpet-laying game, the NAP hadn’t anything to do with fuzz, but more with the weave and which direction the fibers would LIE(LOW). I solved it as themeless since I didn’t get the gimmick on my own. SILLYME. What a SAP.

A local sportswriter calls Steffi GRAF the Homely Hun, but when you look like THAT in the SI swimsuit edition, yeah baby. ERIKA for nowadays and I suppose DINAH back in those days. One I’ll bet nobody else knows (maybe @teedMN does) is singer/songwriter ELIZA Gilkyson, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting; if you don’t like this song, THEN something’s wrong:

So I finished it correctly, but those answers sure looked like they CAME from Wheel of Fortune, they were so green-paintish. I dislike gimmick Thursdays anyway, so this was a kind of BORE.

rondo 12:31 PM  

I actually wrote a piece about ELIZA Gilkyson and Slaid Cleeves back in 2004, but damned if I can find it for your edification. You'll have to do your own research on those two musicians.

Sailor 12:56 PM  

Loved it, even tho I DNFed at the IDcO/cOP cross. Duh.

To make sense, DEFECTIVEBULLET requires accepting the common, but imprecise, usage of "bullet" to mean the entire cartridge or round. I'm willing to do that today for the sake of the entertaining theme.


Technically, however, the bullet is the projectile. The bullet, powder charge, primer, wadding (if any) and casing together make up the cartridge. If the either the powder or primer are defective, you have a dud round.

leftcoastTAM 1:21 PM  

Assume that like many, solved it without making sense of connection between TOP_OFF and theme clues. Actually, revealer and clues slowed down the solving as distractions.

Don't like the gimmick very much, but hope to remember it the next time it or something like it next appears.

Sailor 4:14 PM  

I wasted a lot of time trying to decipher the theme clues as 'l33tspeak' before the light dawned about 2/3 of the way down the grid.

Diana,LIW 4:18 PM  

As I wandered around the grid I got the TOP OFF clue. I immediately, I kid you not, thought of cutting off the tops of those letters/numbers. The tippy top. Not the top half. If the clue was "half off" I would've been there in a nanosecond. This may be a first for me - to be in the "I get it (almost)" crowd.

But, like others, I got the puzzle anyway, for the most part. Darn those Quidditches. Am I correct in assuming this has something to do with Harry P? Lost my "magical thinking" a while ago; however, I'd probably still clap for Tinkerbell.

And then, to come here and see how close I was to the correct revealer.

Boy - ya learn something new about EPEEs every day, doncha?

Where did the "talk to the hand" phrase come from. I've wondered for some time. As I wander. Through the puzzle. My face does care.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting, not SASSY

Teedmn 7:28 PM  

@rondo, sadly you would have to include me with those ignorant about ELIZA Gilkyson. I will agree it's a good song. I listened to a few more of hers, nice voice, laid back vibe. Not very many YouTube viewings though :-(.

Is her work played on The Current?

Anonymous 10:14 PM  

So how are epee electrified?

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